Thank you to St. Martin’s Press and NetGalley for an early review copy of The Lost for Words Bookshop by Stephanie Butland, which will publish June 19, 2018. All thoughts are my own.
Writing: 5 Plot: 4 Characters: 5+
Welcome to the spiky interior world of Loveday Cardew. By turns comic, powerful, uplifting, and literary, this book about books and the people who love them made me one happy clam.
Loveday has worked in the Lost For Words bookshop in York (England) for 15 years. Her network of tattoos is a compendium of significant first lines from favorite novels — I was hooked right there. By the way, the first line of this book? — “A book is a match in the smoking second between strike and flame.” Not bad!
She works for Archie — the rich, eccentric, and larger than life (in more ways than one) bookstore owner who feels that “good relationships are more important than being able to see your feet.” Through the accidental recovery of a Liverpool Poet book, she meets Nathan — a cravat wearing poet who daylights as a magician. Nathan teaches her that you can “write a different story for yourself” — both in terms of the future and the impact you allow from the past.
The book is simultaneously a tender love story, a positive recovery tale, and a foray into the literary world. There is no catalog of horrors, but we do follow the trajectory of a woman who is establishing her own life in the wake of a tragic childhood event. I appreciate that this event is not painted in black and white — there is a realistic complexity to understanding how things happened the way they did and what she can do to become a fully realized human being. Here is a hint — performance poetry has an unexpected role to play!
A great comic style. As an example, when admitting that used book stores have to pulp the extras, Loveday says: “Five million copies of The Da Vinci Code were published in 2003. How many of them does the world still need fifteen years later? A lot less than five million.” (FYI, personally, I might suggest “a lot less than five” — not a huge fan).
Some of my favorite lines:
“She seemed the type who went through her days tutting like a pneumatic disapproval machine.”
“Nathan came over and the nearer he got the more I wanted to run, and cry, and touch him, and blurt, and hide, and kiss him and generally behave as though Barbara Cartland had just sneezed me out.” Love the comic ending on a sentence that was hurling into heavy-duty romance territory!
“It felt as though his words, rather than heading out into the air, were falling off the edge of his lower lip, drooping into my hair, and sliding down the side of my head and into my ear.”